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Academic Guidance Academic Guidance - Academic guidance for those pursuing a college degree... what college? Grad school? PhD help?


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August 3rd, 2016, 06:26 AM   #1
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I am currently a sophomore and undecided about my major. I first took a critical thinking phil course where I was introduced to basic logic and argument formulation. Finding this interesting and enjoying the professor, I took his course called the phil of space and time (it was an elective course and did not require pre-requisites) . Here I was a sophomore stuffed into a small classroom with senior mathematics and physics majors, taking the course for kicks and giggles. It was the hardest course I took so far, but I was absolutely fascinated by it. I was learning about the history of thinking on space and time, the famous mathematicians and physicists through time, and their arguments on the subject. I was introduced to non-Euclidean geometry, Einstein's relativity, Gödel's incompleteness theorem, string theory, etc. I couldn't get enough of it and spent hours reading the textbook and finishing the course with an A. I even bought a copy of Euclid's elements and Newton's principia to learn more. I became friends with the seniors, who told me about the later of mathematics such as abstract algebra and advanced calculus. They were shocked at how well I did in the course for having only taken up to pre-calculus and passing the course with an A. (The exams were all logic essays and did not require actually solving anything math) They even went as far as to say I should be able graduate with a mathematics degree with flying colors. I am obviously very interested in a math major but as a kid I absolutely hated math and science all the way until college, though I did find pre-calculus interesting. Regardless I never studied and dreaded everything about it, so I am a bit hesitant on considering math. I am curious about what others think on whether or not I should major in math? I am primarily driven by a desire to see what comes next in calculus and beyond.

Last edited by skipjack; August 3rd, 2016 at 08:55 AM.
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August 3rd, 2016, 06:28 AM   #2
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Welcome to the forum! Please use paragraphs to make your text more readable! :P.

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I am curious about what others think on whether or not I should major in math?
Do you want to major in math?
Judging from your story here, it seems you are in a pretty good position to major in math if you want to. Usually people ask for opinions on whether they should major in some field because they have something stopping them from doing so.

So, assuming you don't have something stopping you, we need to assess what you hope to achieve by studying math, what sort of career you think you will have, and, of course, whether you enjoy math or not.

Last edited by skipjack; August 3rd, 2016 at 08:59 AM.
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August 3rd, 2016, 06:39 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Joppy View Post
Welcome to the forum! Please use paragraphs to make your text more readable! :P.



Judging from your story here, it seems you are in a pretty good position to major in math if you want to. Usually people ask for opinions on whether they should major in some field because they have something stopping them from doing so.

So, assuming you don't have something stopping you, we need to assess what you hope to achieve by studying math, what sort of career do you think you will have, and of course, whether you enjoy math or not?

EDIT: I'm guessing your other thread will either be removed or deleted, so i'll dupe my reply .
I enjoy problem solving and I find the logic and formulation of proofs/arguments very interesting.

Apart from just being curious about what is next, I see math as a lucrative major.

I have always considered teaching (whether high school or university) so would move in that direction and plan on graduate school. I am very good at writing, forming arguments, and all around just enjoy explaining subjects.

Last edited by IronCloud; August 3rd, 2016 at 06:41 AM.
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August 3rd, 2016, 06:50 AM   #4
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Looks like it might be the way to go then! Case closed :P.

Like I said, I'm not sure what the problem is. Were you hoping to get a response that may change your mind? Let us know if you do have any hesitations, and why.

Hopefully from there you will feel more confident in your decision .
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August 3rd, 2016, 08:31 AM   #5
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My impression is that you are more interested in theoretical physics than in mathematics. Mathematics doesn't study the real world, it studies abstract systems based on rules. Sometimes those rules are defined in order to (attempt) to model the real world, but that is where we start to get into physics. We need observations to prove that the model works, and you are working on ideas of space and time in reality.

You can get into mathematical physics via physics or applied mathematics.

As to the courses, mathematics (especially prior to calculus) tends to be taught as a set of tools, with no focus on using them for anything. There's a famous analogy between mathematics teaching and teaching art by spending years teaching people about brushes, paints, papers, artists, etc. without ever once allowing them to paint a picture. Sometimes this leads students to get very bored with the subject. As I say, things tend to improve over the next few courses, although that may depend on your college's teaching style.

Physics, on the other hand, will be more focused on the study of the real world with a focus on experimental evidence as well as on the theoretical models.

Last edited by v8archie; August 3rd, 2016 at 09:12 AM.
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August 3rd, 2016, 09:07 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by v8archie View Post
We need observations to prove that the model...
... is tenable?
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August 3rd, 2016, 09:13 AM   #7
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Yes. Thanks (previous post edited).
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August 4th, 2016, 04:16 AM   #8
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Physics, on the other hand, will be more focused on the study of the real world with a focus on experimental evidence as well as on the theoretical models
Thank you for the information. I originally looked into physics after taking college physics (algebra based) and doing very well.

However, I do not think I would enjoy laboratory studies. I see myself as sitting down and solving problems, proving equations, etc with a pencil and paper (If you know what I mean). As oppose to studying particle accelerators and such.

I was told that advanced calculus was essentially proving calculus and that really intrigued me. So the traditional mathematics route was what appealed to me.

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Originally Posted by v8archie View Post
You can get into mathematical physics via physics or applied mathematics.
On the topic of applied mathematics, my university does have a concentration in it. What would be the appeal in taking that route instead of regular physics?
Thanks from Joppy
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August 4th, 2016, 04:35 AM   #9
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Check the syllabus. But expect that it will focus on the mathematics used to model physical processes: classical mechanics, fluid dynamics, relativity, quantum mechanics, spring systems, propagation of waves, etc.

Essentially, this will be a whole load of calculus which I'd hope that you would attack from a theoretical standpoint rather than primarily as methods/tools for solving problems.

Mathematics will include other disciplines not (or only loosely) related to physical processes (such as discrete mathematics).

Last edited by skipjack; August 4th, 2016 at 09:08 AM.
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August 4th, 2016, 06:44 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by v8archie View Post
Essentially, this will be a whole load of calculus which I'd hope that you would attack from a theoretical standpoint rather than primarily as methods/tools for solving problems.
I find it really frustrating that the unappreciation for mathematics has become widespread amongst fields of applied science.
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